ECB keeping options open but remaining firmly in easing mode
- The ECB left current policies unchanged at their January meeting last week, reiterating that they will support recovery in a “holistic and multi-faceted” way. The committee left the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) at €1.85trn noting that the package “need not be used in full” but “equally, the envelope can be recalibrated if required to maintain favourable financing conditions”.
- President Lagarde noted that the economic contraction could “travel into Q1” (current ECB forecast +0.6%), citing the worsening pandemic crisis with new more infectious strains and ongoing weakness in the service sector. However, on reasons for optimism she highlighted the roll-out of the vaccine programme, the UK-EU trade deal, the manufacturing recovery and less uncertainty around US politics.
Global data divergence still evident; China leading, followed by US, with Europe lagging
- GDP growth in China was stronger than expected in Q4, +6.5% YoY (consensus: +6.2%), with strength seen in all sectors. Remarkably, this takes Chinese GDP back to its pre-COVID trend.
- December industrial production grew 7.3% YoY (November: +5.0%, consensus: +5.5%), as production of computers, electronics and medical products accelerated. Fixed asset investment was up +2.9% YoY in December, slightly weaker than expectations and driven by slower property and manufacturing investment.
- The Euro area composite flash PMI fell 1.6pt to 47.5 in January, marginally more than expected, with France being the biggest contributor to the weakness. The UK composite PMI fell by a much greater-than-expected 9.8pt to 40.6, driven by Services (down from 50.4 to 38.8 consensus: 45.0), the lowest since last summer but well above the record low 13.4 reading from last April. The UK manufacturing PMI fell 57.5 to 52.9 (consensus: 53.6), not helped by Brexit-related trade disruptions and delays in shipping from Asia. The future expectations component remains elevated, employment fell back into sub-50 contractionary territory.
- UK retail sales were weaker than expected in December, +0.3% over the month (consensus: +1.3%, November: -4.1%). This left sales -1.9% in 2020, the largest annual decline on record. Fuel dragged the reading lower over the year (volumes -22%) and physical store sales were hampered by bouts of lockdown/the move to online retail, leaving the winners over the year food stores (+4.3% sales) and non-store retail (+32.0% sales).
- The US manufacturing PMI survey increased from from 57.1 in December to 59.1 in January, a new all-time high for the survey. Services rose from 54.8 in December to 57.5 in January, one of the highest monthly readings on record, although some of the details were less upbeat, with the new business and employment components declining vs the previous month.
Equities and FX mixed; rates consolidating
- Global equities rose driven by US and Asian equity markets, whilst European indices were generally lower. The dollar was slightly weaker vs other G10 currencies and precious metals, but stronger vs EMFX, particularly “popular” longs like BRL and RUB.
- US rates were rangebound for a second week running with 10-year Treasury failing to break decisively above 1.10%. Euro rates were marginally higher, with Italy underperforming as fresh elections loom.